International community shows support for Ukraine as President Zelensky announces formation of unit for foreign fighters
A military vehicle in Maidan square in Kyiv, on 27 February, as Ukrainian authorities toughened curfew orders in the city (AFP)
https://www.middleeasteye.net/-By MEE staff
The small coastal town of Berdyansk in Ukraine’s south fell to Russian forces on Sunday, the fourth day of Moscow’s invasion, the town’s acting mayor announced just after nightfall.
Berdyansk has a small naval base and a population of about 100,000 people. It appeared to be the first populated area that has fallen under complete Russian control since the start of Moscow’s invasion.
“Some time ago, armed soldiers entered the executive committee building and introduced themselves as soldiers of the Russian army, they informed us that all administrative buildings were under their control,” acting Mayor Oleksandr Svidlo said in a video posted to Facebook, which was translated into English by CNN.
Local government officials were asked to continue working, Svidlo said, “but under the control of armed men”, to which they refused.
“Today Berdyansk was on the line of fire. I don’t know what tomorrow will be like, but I think tonight will be very, very hard,” he said.
Still, Russian forces remained stunted in their advancements, as Kyiv continued to hold an unexpectedly strong opposition throughout the fourth day of Moscow’s invasion.
‘We will all defend our state and our borders’
Kyiv on Sunday agreed to hold talks with Moscow at its border with Belarus after a call between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko.
Zelensky, in a brief televised statement, said he would not personally attend the talks, which will take place on Monday, but would send a delegation, expressing scepticism over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions.
“I will say frankly, as always: I do not really believe in the result of this meeting, but let them try. So that no citizen of Ukraine would have any doubt that I, as president, did not try to stop the war when there was even a small chance,” Zelensky said.
“And while our guys are there, the president is here, the chief of staff is here, the prime minister is here, the army is here, the commander-in-chief is here. We will all defend our state and our borders,” he continued.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson echoed Zelensky’s statements, saying he “doubts” Putin’s “sincerity” in entering talks with Ukraine.
“If he wants to stop, if he wants to withdraw, if he wants to negotiate, that’s very good news. I have my doubts, I’ve got to tell you. Nothing I’ve seen so far in his behavior that leads me to think that he could possibly be sincere,” Johnson said, speaking to reporters in the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in London.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Interior said that is has confirmed 352 civilian, including 14 children. Another 1,684 people, including 116 children, have been injured.
The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed for the first time that its armed forces suffered casualties after its invasion, but did not specify a number.
Earlier on Sunday the first-ever footage of a Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone being used emerged. A video appeared to show Russian forces being struck in Ukraine’s Kherson region.
International pressure on Russia
The move came as Turkey labelled Russia’s invasion a “war”. Under the agreement, Turkey has control over the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits that connect the Mediterranean and Black seas and can limit the passage of warships during wartime or if threatened.
Belgium and Sweden both announced plans to supply weapons to Ukraine, following Germany’s earlier pledge on Friday. The European Union also vowed to support delivery of 450m euros’ worth of weapons to Ukraine.
More EU nations vowed to close their airspace to Russian planes as a measure to isolate Russia, with Denmark calling for a cross-EU ban on Russian aircraft.
Meanwhile, President Zelensky announced that he would set up an international unit – the International Legion of Territorial Defence of Ukraine – for volunteers who want to join Ukrainian troops to fight the invading Russian forces.
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said that she would “absolutely” support Britons travelling to Ukraine to join the country’s fight against the Russian invasion.
The United Nations Security Council has voted in favour of holding a rare emergency special session of the 193-member General Assembly, which is set to be held on Monday. Russia voted against the procedural measure, while China, India and the United Arab Emirates abstained. The UAE has announced its intentions to stay “neutral” amid the crisis.
In the face of growing international opposition, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his defence chiefs to put the country’s nuclear “deterrence forces” on high alert on Sunday and accused the West of taking “unfriendly” steps against his country.
Moscow has the world’s second-largest arsenal of nuclear weapons and a huge cache of ballistic missiles which form the backbone of the country’s deterrence forces.
Some 368,000 Ukrainians have already fled abroad since the start of the conflict, seeking shelter in neighbouring countries such as Poland, Hungary, and Romania, to as far as Israel.
About 2,500 Ukrainian Jews have already asked to immigrate to Israel “immediately” since the Jewish Agency opened a helpline on Thursday. The NGO is helping those interested in leaving the country for Israel as well as Israelis who have relatives in Ukraine.
At least 6,000 people are believed to have been arrested during anti-war protests in Russia.
Meanwhile, football associations across Europe – including in the Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden and England – declared their refusal to play Russia in upcoming World Cup qualifying matches.
In response, Football’s governing body Fifa ruled that the Russian national team must play all upcoming international games on neutral sites under the name “football union of Russia”, among a list of other sanctions levied over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
It also banned the Russian flag and anthem from being used in matches where teams from the Football Union of Russia participate.